Let’s jump right on it.
On December 21, 1988 Pan Am flight 103 blew up over the town of Lockerbie Scotland. 259 people on the flight were killed. 11 people were killed on the ground. I remember this incident well…watching the news break, finding out that American students returning home for the holidays were killed and then watching the painstaking investigation in subsequent coverage. I remember the final conclusion that the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 was the result of state sponsored terrorism and that Libya was the culprit.
The Pan Am 103 bombing was a huge news story and one of the first in my memory that highlighted the threat of state sponsored terrorism…that nations would attack other nations by targeting citizens through terrorism.
The United States under the Reagan administration had engaged in military strikes against Libya. Back in the mid-80’s, Muammar al-Gaddafi was the enemy…the evil foe of the United States bent on the destruction of our nation and way of life. And so we engaged in a game of chess using live weapons and the American people were told that Libya was behind multiple terrorist incidents, most notably the bombing of Pan Am 103.
Libya was the enemy…regime change was needed…those who loved freedom must hate Libya.
So, I was startled when the Bush administration normalized relations with Libya in 2006…in the midst of the global war on terror…even as President Bush ratcheted up the rhetoric against the latest evildoer nations.
Startled but not surprised.
This has all happened before.
This will all happen again.
Now the only individual convicted in the bombing of Pan Am 103 is set to be released from prison on the grounds that he is dying…a compassionate release that is being denounced heatedly by some and defended vehemently by others.
It is important to note that 11 people died on the ground…that this is not a case of Scotland leveling compassion for a crime it was not been touched by.
In many ways the debate over what this release says about Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s innocence or guilt is moot…his release is not exoneration.
What the press has thus far failed to explore is that the compassionate release of the only individual convicted in the Pan Am 103 bombing offends many because of that normalization of relations back in 2006…because it feels as if all responsible parties involved have been let off the hook.
That is something worth pondering as we continue to wage war…that one day our enemy will no longer be our enemy. We would be wise to contemplate what that means. One day we will normalize relations with Afghanistan and Iraq…just as the Bush administration normalized relations with Libya…just as we no longer make movies about Soviets invading America while fresh faced rural youth taking up arms to protect our way of life from godless communists bent on conquering the world.
The propaganda lingers long after one diplomatic game is over and a new game of chess begins…and the masses are left to struggle with the meaning of it all even as we reassemble on the board.